Orlando Magic pass their first test of adversity against Miami Heat

The Miami Heat's Dion Waiters (11) drives into the Orlando Magic's Nikola Vucevic, left, Elfrid Payton, top right, and Terrence Ross (31) at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. The Magic won, 116-109. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
The Miami Heat's Dion Waiters (11) drives into the Orlando Magic's Nikola Vucevic, left, Elfrid Payton, top right, and Terrence Ross (31) at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. The Magic won, 116-109. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic had their growth moment in holding off the Miami Heat. They faced their first bit of adversity and overcame it to score the win.

116. 38. 107. 110. Final

Coach Frank Vogel could not have been happy with his team’s first 12 minutes.

Every fear for this team seemed to come true. The offense stagnated with a lack of fast-break opportunities. The Orlando Magic had to play a grind out style and could not get their transition going.

A lot of the reason for that was their defense. The Miami Heat did not miss many shots or turn the ball over. They hit on 14 of 26 field goals and scored 37 points in the first quarter. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters drove into the lane and caused the defense to collapse around them. Orlando struggled to get themselves back out to the shooters or cut off shots at the rim.

Those fears doubled down in the fourth quarter as the Heat went on a 23-8 run to trim a 17-point deficit to two points with about two and a half minutes to play. This was a scenario the Magic had been in countless times last year.

It felt like . . . more of the same.

The same kind of porous defense, anemic offense and frustrating play that had defined the Magic all of last year — even after the All-Star Break. It was just all so inefficient. This was not who the Magic wanted to be.

Orlando had to turn somewhere to get out of this rut. Anywhere. Someone had to stop this from happening again.

In a timeout, the Magic led by only two points and they drew up a play to get the ball to their best player with the outcome in doubt. It would have been easy to expect Orlando to have some doubt.

The doubts do not go to rest after the Magic’s season-opening 116-107 win, or the seven-point barrage Evan Fournier unleashed on them to ice the game. But those fears sure get alleviated.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Magic faced down adversity and came through.

"“Honestly, I was still confident,” Evan Fournier said. “But I think two or three years ago, that was a game that we would have lost. It shows growth from us players. It’s a good win, but we’ve got to get the stops and make sure when we’re struggling to get good shots.”"

That was the kind of resolve and determination the Magic often missed last year. Too many times Orlando took a punch and went down, never to return. The team wilted in these big moments time and time again.

Is this a new leaf? That might be too soon to tell.

There is a different spirit about this team. The Magic played with a renewed sense of energy. There was that determination not to lose the game late. Something Fournier put on his shoulders late.

This was the sign of growth the Magic had long been waiting on. There is still plenty to learn from and grow from. But the Magic took a punch and came back stronger.

"“We talked about adversity pregame,” Vogel said. “In the preseason, wins and losses don’t really matter. Once the season comes around, that’s when your group really faces adversity. We saw a little bit of that tonight and we responded from it. Another thing our team can draw confidence from. Another positive sign.”"

The Magic did not get off to a good start. And they did not finish the game as well as they would have liked either.

But there were still positive signs of the way the team is coming together. And most importantly how they might respond when things get tough.

Vogel said he thought the team could have played a lot better than they did. He generally liked their ball containment and the way the team valued their possessions. The pace of the game was good too — 109.1 pace, according to NBA.com.

There was a lot to like about the Magic overall. But that has been the case several times throughout the last few seasons. Orlando has done good things. Just never for very long.

Something intangible was always missing. It was that intangible piece — that ability to respond — that was most certainly missing much of last season. Orlando reached into that well and found it to pick up the victory Wednesday.

The chips were down and the Magic answered the bell. This has not always been the case. Finally the Magic found the will to take over and win the game.

"“I’m sure a lot of guys thought at that moment we can’t let that happen again,” Nikola Vucevic said. “We had a lot of those in the past. We put ourselves in a tough position by letting them get back. But we regrouped. We found a way at the end to finish the game off. I think that is good for us to find that confidence to finish games.”"

That is the next step of course. The step every player recognized after the game. The step Vogel pointed out too.

He said this was a game the Magic could have won running away by 15 or more points, rather than sweating it out. They played that well.

This was a game of unnecessary adversity perhaps.

Who knows what will carry over from the first game for the Magic? The sample sizes are still too small to make any definite conclusions. Learning to win is a continuing process for this team.

Learning to close games for good and put the foot down may come next.

The big victories — the final score — and the little victories — staring down adversity and finding a way to win — still matter. Especially for a team still growing and learning to win.

Next: Grades: Orlando Magic 116, Miami Heat 107

In a situation Orlando clearly would have lost last year, the team faced down adversity and won the day. That is quite the start.